Mull couple fly to aid island hit by typhoon at Christmas

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A couple from Mull have flown to the Philippines to aid a fragile island community devastated by Typhoon Odette days before Christmas.

Andrew and Gerlie Fuller contacted us near the end of quarantine in the Philippines’ capital city Manila, where they were awaiting news of Gerlie’s family on her small home island.

‘Vast swathes of the Southern Philippines have just been ravaged by the 600km wide typhoon,’ said Andrew, senior associate at Oban estate agent Bell Ingram.

‘Gerlie’s home village was directly in the path of Typhoon Odette and we are fearing the worst. We head into the affected region in a few hours to assist where possible.

‘We fly from Manila to Butuan City, and then by car to Surigao city, a large coastal town, heavily damaged by the super typhoon.

‘The village that we are trying to reach is called Riizal and it is positioned on a tiny island called Sibanac within the Dinagat Islands region.

‘It seems that most of Gerlie’s village has been devastated by the storm. We still cannot contact her family at all. Early reports indicate that most of the houses in the village have been destroyed.

‘Odette bombarded Dinagat with heavy rain and sustained winds, with an intensity of 195 kilometres per hour. Brief bursts of wind reached up to 240 km/h, tearing down Dinagat’s communication lines, uprooting trees, lifting roofs, and wrecking houses. Landslides, fallen trees, and debris have left most roads impassable.

‘Hospitals in the region have been damaged to the point that some were rendered inoperable. Shops, banks and municipal buildings were also destroyed; the supply of potable water was disrupted, and people are already getting hungry. Also, the boats of the local fishermen, so valuable to provide daily food to local communities, have been decimated or simply washed away.

‘There is a dwindling supply of food and water, and not much shelter left across the region. The people are literally left with nothing and they need your help.

‘Dinagat needs staple food, potable water, temporary shelters, fuel, hygiene kits, and medical supplies. Please take a moment to imagine yourself in this situation. Anything you can offer, no matter how small, will be used by us to help those left with nothing.

They hoped the good people of Oban and Mull, ‘a close island community that  welcomed us both with open arms, can find a way to join and support our efforts to provide direct help to another small island community in desperate need.’

The couple set up a crowdfunding page, www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/help-dinagat, which has at the time of writing raised more than £3,000 of its £25,000 target.

In an update posted on Boxing Day, Andrew showed a photograph of Gerlie listening to the story of Merla and her baby Ada, who were in their coastal house when the typhoon hit, and blew the building down around them.

Merla told Gerlie: ‘Our house is so damaged and we need to rebuild. Our income was from harvesting coconuts, but with almost all island coconut trees left flattened, there will be no work. We don’t know how we will rebuild our house.’

Andrew said: ‘Their family needs support to buy the most basic construction materials. With this fundraising we will be able to provide some assistance.’

A second photograph, posted a day later, showed the roofless house of fisherman Shernan Orillo, his wife and their six children. Andrew said: ‘We dropped off a supplies parcel on Christmas Day, only to be invited in to share what little food they had left. Some gestures leave me speechless! We hope to support him with the urgent repairs to his house.’